October 7, 2008

Our Year of Living Steakishly: September II, Mitchell's Fish Market

This is the second of our diversions from the purity of the top twelve steak houses in the Cincinnati/Dayton area, so I'm wondering whether we need to shift this to more than a year of living steakishly, but let's just rock with reviewing Mitchell's Fish Market on the Streets of West Chester.

The Girl's been wanting to try this one for a while because she's gotten to a Mitchell's Steak House up in Columbus and swears that it's the best steak she's ever had. Her thinking is that they're both Mitchell's restaurants, so the steaks should be from the same source.

Plus they sent us a coupon.

Seriously, a whole $15 off of two entrees. Like The Girl said, that's pretty much a buy one, get one free deal for us.

Yeah, with a whole bunch of rounding, maybe.

So we called up and set a reservation for 6:45 Friday evening, looking to get in just before the dinner rush. When we got there, there was a bit of a chill in the air, so we declined the offer to sit outside, and we were shown to our table without any waiting at all - always a bonus when reservation times are held and respected.

We had gone through the Mitchell's website and checked out the menu in advance, seeing that a number of their fish options were on the no-go list from Monterey and noticed that we didn't see any appetizers that tempted us - though, unsurprisingly, the bacon-wrapped shrimp was the closest - so we bypassed that and headed for a drink.

The Girl asked our waiter - whom she described as a bit of a hottie - for a recommendation between a couple of their "signature" drinks, and she was steered to the horrifically-named Fish Marketini with white grape juice, a sugar-rimmed glass, and champagne. The drink came out in a nice, solid martini glass but was so sickly sweet that The Girl couldn't possibly get halfway through the drink. I had a taste and was repelled pretty quickly.

When the waiter asked how she was enjoying the drink, she admitted that it was just ok, that she should have gotten a Manhattan instead. He quickly offered to get her a Manhattan on the house as he had made the recommendation that she didn't care for. Her second drink was much better, and the waiter actually cleared the cost of both drinks because, in his words, "that's just how we do things here." The Manhattan was a much more pleasant replacement.

Bonus points for Mitchell's...

With no appetizers to tempt us, we went ahead and ordered our meals.
  • The Girl
    Strip steak, medium rare
    - fourteen ounces of strip steak
    - baked potato with sour cream
    - asparagus
    - hollandaise sauce, on the side
  • ChemGuy
    Crab cakes
    - corn saute
    - mashed potatoes
I know, I'm supposed to be the strip steak guy, but it's a fish place. There had to be some seafood involved. Plus, we planned on splitting the two meals as soon as they came out...half strip for me, half crab cakes for The Girl.

The bread offering - note the shiny top

The bread, of course, beat the entrees to the table, and it was a nice, simple sourdough baguette partially sliced to make grabbing a piece a little easier. The top had been brushed with a bit of oil which didn't add anything to the taste but did make for a slightly prettier presentation. The two halves of our loaf clearly weren't initially joined as the angles didn't match, and I noticed that the rest of the tables' breads were the same ends rested together. I'm hoping that they used the middles of the baguettes for some other dish - my crab cakes, perhaps - and that they weren't just baking big baguettes so they could serve the ends.

The bread was slightly warm and tasted fresh and decently soft inside - other than on the two cut ends which had dried out a bit - with a nice crust. The bread certainly wasn't a star, but it was a solid offering without being in any way noteworthy on its own. It did come, of course, with a real butter florette, which is always a nice little touch.

While we waited for the entrees - not an unreasonable amount of time, especially when the restaurant was solidly filled as are most of the ones in the Union Center development on a Friday night - we looked around at the decor. As we entered, we passed through the bar area which I didn't honestly explore in any depth, just passing through on the way in and out. It looked simple enough with primarily dark wood and a nautical theme around the ovular bar in the center of the room.

The dining room was much larger and included a private dining room for large parties - which was hosting a birthday party replete with balloons and wrapped presents - as we left for the evening. The rest of the dining room is decorated in a fish market theme with model boats between the tables - and behind but not entirely enclosed by glass plates. There is a working fish market where you can buy fresh (flown in daily according to the menu and sign board) fish by the pound to take home and cook yourself and a live bar where you can choose your oysters from a half dozen destinations, none of which tempted me to try my first live shellfish.

The lighting in the dining room was a bit odd as the room, when viewed in its entirety, seemed a bit dim - though much brighter than the Pine Club - but was well lit at the individual tables. Each booth table had a wall-mounted sconce which provided very little light and a recessed ceiling light that provided ample illumination of the people in the booth, primarily focusing on the table itself.

And our table had a pepper grinder all its own...major bonus points for the Fish Market there. I think I've mentioned my love for fresh pepper before, and the fact that they let me control my own amount instead of grinding it for me until I say ok is a big, big plus in my book.

After a few minutes, the main courses came out, and they didn't disappoint in the least.

Crab cake entree - before

The crab cakes were well sized with two being more than enough for an entree. The cakes were far more crab and less cake than most of the crab cakes you'll get in a restaurant, and the crab pieces were pretty large - appropriate since the menu said the meat was jumbo lump crab meat. The crab cakes were nicely sweet - primarily, I think, from the crab meat itself - and had a nice, crisp crust. They came with a cup of tartar sauce which was also nicely spiced though a little light on the relish.

The corn saute was excellent, a mixture of corn, peppers, and green onions. The simple sauteing enhanced the corn's sweetness and put a few crisp edges on the kernels. I'll be trying to recreate this at home at some point. The scallion mashed potatoes were excellent as well. A bit of a step down from the Oakwood Club's, perhaps, because of the lack of rosemary, but still very good. They were mashed but still had pieces of potato throughout giving the dish some nice texture.

My entree choice was excellent and well portioned, satisfying me but leaving a bit of room for dessert. The flavors were well balanced and the side dishes well paired with the main dish.

Crab strip steak entree - before

The Girl's steak - which we did split fairly easily - was a revelation, however. The meat was marvelously aged and very flavorful. It was char-broiled at 1200 degrees Fahrenheit - something that is going to be tough to match when The Girl tries to make her own version at home at the end of our Year - and had a very nice crust on about half of the steak. The inside of the steak was certainly on the rare side of medium-rare and might actually lead me to order a medium from Mitchell's in the future.

The steak was outstanding. Excellent. Easily topping the Oakwood Club and every bit the equal if not slightly superior to the Pine Club's. If the rich, brown crust had been a little more prevalent, then this steak would have easily been the best yet. As it was, my strip steak at the Pine Club is pretty close to being its equal.

The Girl reports that the asparagus was good, well cooked and fairly simple, sauted in a bit of oil and not much more. The steak was rafted on top of the three fat stalks and beside a baked potato that was lavished with sour cream. At first, the potato looked a bit on the small side, but once it was opened up, it turned out to be a whole lot larger, particularly after The Girl's consumption of the steak and the asparagus. The potato skin wasn't as crisp as she would have liked, but her guess is that it might've been a bit crisper when first out of the kitchen.

Crab cake entree - after (sadly, I forgot to take a picture of the strip steak afterwards...trust me, nothing but half a spud left)

The waiter boxed up the remaining potato and offered us a perusal of the dessert menu. As we each were in need of some small sweet treat to finish our meal completely, we were tempted enough to look through the menu and found two options that intrigued: the creme brulee and the key lime pie. As we didn't want anything too sweet, we opted to split the key lime pie.

Key Lime Pie - after splitting and taking a bite or two each...(it was tasty, I forgot to take the photo initially)

The pie was a nice yellow/green color - always a good sign in a key lime dish. If it's green, it's fake and hence no good. The graham cracker crust had a bit of macadamia nut crumbled in, and there were a few more nut pieces atop. The pie was tart and balanced well with the sweeter whipped cream on the edge. A single piece was certainly enough for the two of us after the generous portion sizes of the entrees and side dishes. I felt good about the swap of dessert for appetizer from the Clubs so far.

Key lime pie - after...(That bite left is from The Girl who is not a member of the clean plate club this time)

After clearing the dessert plate, our waiter returned with the happiest surprise of our evening - the check. He had already taken off the two drinks' charges as well as subtracted out the fifteen-dollar coupon that had initially brought us into the restaurant. After the deductions, our check came to $48.

Seriously, $48 for probably the best meal of the three restaurants so far.

We felt like bank robbers, and tipped the waiter generously.

I'll score things as though we had paid full price, however, of $63 (adding in the $15 coupon but not the $7 drink) for the meal and dessert plus what would likely have been a $15 or so tip meaning the rankings will reflect a meal at $78, still a great price.

So, to the rankings...
  • AppetizersDessert - 7 - good, solid, house-made dessert finished things well
  • Steak - 9 - Outstanding...great crust...great flavor...the crab cakes come in here, too, and probably deserve a 7 because they were good but not spectacular, though this is all about the steak
  • Side dishes - 7 - corn was the star, though everything was very good
  • Atmosphere - 7 - I couldn't see a television from where I sat (good) and liked the general fish market feel, though it is clearly a suburban restaurant - family friendly so not exactly elegant
  • Cost - 6.5 - we paid $68 with tip, but that's with the coupon, so I'm ranking this as though we paid $87 and giving it a half point for the coupon and the comped drinks
  • Service - 8 - The waiter was cute (according to The Girl) and very though not officiously friendly...he was entertained at the photo-taking and at our explanation of the Year of Living Steakishly tour idea...he did recommend another steak restaurant in Dayton for us to try (Fleming's at The Greene)
  • Total score - 44.5 (out of 60)
And our new leader is Mitchell's Fish Market - oddly now owned by Ruth's Chris Steakhouse.

Next month we're to Carlo & Johnny's, I promise.


joey said...

flemings is nice, as is the [not so]Greene in general (there is a mitchel'ls fish market there too, very curious, Watson...).

I have had my eye on Mitchell's for a while, mainly because they have Lake Erie Perch/Walleye on the menu fairly often. That makes me chuckle just because in my refrigerator at home we currently have about 30 pounds worth (not exaggerating) from a few successful fishing trips. Very yummy (and both OK on your list)

TL said...

You seriously have to get the crab cakes at Chez Nora in Covington. So far, they're my absolute favorite I've tried in the area. Big hunks of real crab in amongst all the shredded bits and the sauce that came with it was a delightful creation of their own. It's one of their signature dishes and I can see why.
I had hoped that I could go all out on a fancy meal somewhere for my upcoming birthday but we're so darn busy I don't think we'll even get the chance just yet. I've thus decided to postpone my birthday and pretend I was actually born in early November instead of October.
I had hoped to revisit Red in Hyde Park or else Mesh, which Linda raved about but would cost us a bit more... Okay, a whole heck of a lot more... But any place that serves an amuse bouche would be just what I'm in the mood for. Elitist cow that I am...

TL said...

PS: The goat cheese appetizer at Chez Nora rocks my socks off every time. So simple, we do it at home... You heat up a dish of marinara sauce with some hunks of goat cheese on top so the cheese melts a little bit, then use pita bread to scoop it up. You'd think the taste of iron would be overwhelming from both the goat cheese and the tomatoes in the sauce, but maybe we're just big fans of excess.

cmorin said...

Another note about Chez Nora is that Sundays Marry Ellen Tanner sings and she is quite talented, as is the band backing her up. Also Phill Degregg performs a lot there and he is a fantastic piano player.

Andy said...

I don't eat at nice restaurants much due to insufficient funds (no job and the blog hasn't exploded like I was hoping), but maybe I'll try Mitchell's for some special occasion. I didn't know it was so good. Thanks for the review.

andrew said...

As to the 1200 deg bit, Alton Brown once modified an old weber grill to produce temps somewhere around there.

He had a hole cut in the bottom of the grill, with a screen over it (so the coals don't fall through). He attached a metal pipe to the hole, and attached a hair dryer to the other end of the pipe. The forced air drove the temperatures much higher than he could otherwise get to.

Figuring out how to avoid drying the steak to crisp (from all of the hot air) is another story.

PHSChemGuy said...

I don't know if Flemings will make the list or not, but it's interesting to have one recommended by a waiter at a different restaurant.

Joey, there's something to be said for having somebody else do the cooking, man.

TL - when's the b'day? Red's on the list, as is Mesh (not for steak, but because The Girl wants to go there). I'm not typically down with the goat cheese, so I may pass on that appetizer. Chez Nora is going onto the list, though. The Girl will be thrilled.

CMorin - always looking for live music.

Andy...if you're down in the UC area, you might hop across to Northside and check out Slim's or Honey (both kind of expensive ~$30 per person for the full meal) or Melt (a little cheaper) or the restaurant next to the Northside Pub (used to be PotLuck...don't remember since name change)...and there's always Habanero on Ludlow...I crave their burritos all the time...we used to live on Riddle Rd and then in Northside, so I'm all down with envy at the restaurants down there...

Andrew...I have a the Alton Brown cookbook in which he discusses and sort of shows how to do that trick...uses a heat gun to torch inside the tiny grill...it might be worth a try...thanks for the reminder...

achilles3 said...

Again. I want it.
All of it.

Korean BBQ is good but...

Andy said...

Thanks, I'll check those out the next time I am looking. And yes, Habanero burritos are delicious. Those chips they have are really good too - probably because they are fried right there and dripping with fat, but good is good.